Each year millions of people across the United States travel the nation’s roadways during the holiday season from just before Thanksgiving until just after New Year’s Day. Whether they are traveling on a cross-country journey or just heading to the other side of town, the increased traffic alone tends to put law enforcement agencies on alert. In addition to the overall increase in vehicular traffic during the holiday season there is also traditionally an increase in the number of motorists who are driving under the influence (DUI). To combat this, most states, including the State of California, set up DUI checkpoints. If you plan to be driving at all during the period just before Christmas through New Year’s Day you should be on alert for California holiday DUI checkpoints.
Also referred to as “roadblocks,” DUI checkpoints offer a way for law enforcement agencies to check for motorists who are driving under the influence. The concept is simple. The police select a location and then set up a roadblock so that all vehicles passing through must slow down and ultimately stop when they reach a waiting police officer. The officer then conducts a “mini-interview” in an attempt to identify motorists who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If an officer becomes suspicious of a driver, the motorist is flagged over and a full-blown DUI stop is conducted.
Although a law enforcement officer usually needs probable cause to stop a motorist, the high court has held that the danger posed by driving under the influence outweighs the slight intrusion posed by a checkpoint. For a checkpoint to be legal, however, several state and federal requirements must be met, including:
- Criteria used to stop motorists must be neutral
- The operation must be planned in advance by supervisory officers
- The location must be safe and reasonably situated
- The time and duration of the checkpoint must reflect good judgment
- Law enforcement officers must be clearly marked and it must be clear to motorists that the stop is part of a DUI checkpoint
- Motorists cannot be detained longer than is necessary
- The locations must be publicized in advance
If any of the above requirements are not met, the checkpoint may be declared illegal and an arrest that stemmed from it could be dismissed by a judge in court. Without a doubt, the most important of the requirements for motorists who plan to drive this holiday season is the publication requirement. If you wish to avoid the delay and hassle caused by running into a DUI roadblock be sure to do a little investigating yourself before you leave the house to find out if any checkpoints are planned along your route and adjust your plan accordingly.
If you are charged with DUI or any other alcohol or drug related driving offense during the holiday season be sure to consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. For immediate help, contact San Diego criminal defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo or call (619) 232-5122 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.